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Dignity Health MS Achievement Center Provides Community And Improves Quality Of Life

This article is sponsored by Dignity Health

Bill Maciej recently completed a virtual cycling ride of 175 miles for Waves to Wine, the National MS Society fundraiser. A lifelong San Francisco '49ers fan, he's currently undertaking a cycling challenge called Tour of the Stadiums of the NFC West, a total of 5,188 miles.

Thursdays are special days

These are remarkable undertakings for any individual at nearly 74 years of age -- all the more so because Bill has been living with multiple sclerosis for more than 30 years and lacks use of his arms and legs due to the chronic condition which currently has no cure.

At Bill's home, Thursdays are special. A paratransit van provides him with transportation to the Dignity Health MS Achievement Center in Citrus Heights, Calif., about 10 miles from his residence. On good days, Bill is able to undertake the journey without his wife, Cathie, due to assistance at the other end of his ride. His power wheelchair and a MOTOMed for cycling at the center help make Bill's socializing and exercise goals a reality.

Humankindness is spread widely

Beyond the equipment and Bill's determination, the Dignity Health MS Achievement Center provides Bill and his home-based caregivers with the benefits from something else that's truly important -- humankindness.

At the Dignity Health MS Achievement Center, Bill has developed a core group of friends and acquaintances, bringing him out of the isolation he'd encountered when MS meant losing a job and the ability to socialize. It's rare for Bill to miss a Thursday class; he's been attending since the program began in February 2014.

In addition to Bill, the center serves approximately 70 participants in their own weekly five-hour blocks of activities aimed at maintaining or improving physical, emotional and cognitive wellness at whatever level is required. Beyond those sessions, it allows people to form friendships and get together outside the program, which in turn can provide additional respite for their caregivers. The center also provides a formal support partner group for discussion of challenges and issues that are unique to loved ones living with the person with MS.

Humankindness is a two-way street

Program director Brian Hutchinson says, "For Bill, the sessions are very helpful. Over time, he requires less assistance from his home-based caregivers because his muscles and joints are easier to move when getting him dressed, transferred, having meals and so on. At the center, every day, we see others getting as much out of the giving side as the getting. When people interact, it's really powerful."

Meanwhile, Bill's weekly visit to the MS Achievement Center creates an all-important chunk of personal time for his wife, Cathie, who has been able to pursue her interest in taking an art class.

As Hutchinson points out, "One of our primary goals is to form a community for people living with MS -- and that includes our support partner groups - so that people have a place to go and a forum in which to share ideas, concerns and joys."

Bill says it best of all. "The support I receive from the MS Achievement Center is a perfect complement to the incredible support I receive from family and friends. I  look forward to every Thursday attending the MS Achievement Center and seeing the staff and program members."

This article was written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr via for CBS Local Media

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